Monday, September 30, 2013

Rain, Rocks, Royalty

          One Miracle After Another, a book about one man’s struggles living as an Adventist in Communist times, was quite inspirational. It recounted the times that Pavel Goia refused to go to school on Sabbath, yet every Saturday school was cancelled due to severe weather conditions or other abnormal circumstances causing his absence to be unnoticed. I was so awestruck to see how God worked all things according to His good for this man that put all his trust in God. However, I never felt that would be a reality for me: only a good story that I once read in a fascinating book. I have been amazed to see how God has answered my unspoken prayer week after week.
            As missionaries, we are supposed to be reaching those around us to help them find the way to Jesus. Santa Marta, a small village about 10 miles North of our project, has become one of the main focuses for our outreach. Every Sunday, a group of us make the 35-minute drive to go study with some of our new friends. Two weeks ago, there was a hurricane along the eastern side of Mexico that traveled south. There was severe flooding in Mexico and parts of Belize. Although our houses were not underwater, we experienced rain for about a week and a half. The rain fell from the heavens all day, every day. Mud half way to my knees, damp clothes that never smelled good, halted work for all, gloomy spirits wondering if sun would ever be seen again. However, when Sunday arrived, there was no rain. We traveled to Santa Marta, enjoyed fellowship with others, witnessed, and returned home safely. The next week could only promise better. Sun shining every day, work continued as normal. The heat was exhaustive, but what a blessing to be able to walk on solid ground once again. The week passed by and Sunday arrived once again. As irony would have it, the black clouds gathered right before we left for our outreach. The drive along the bumpy pathway was slow and slippery. The clouds opened up and poured down upon us. With dashed hopes and no remembrance of God’s providing in the past, we trudged along. The sun began to peak through the parting clouds driving the rain away. Once again, we had a day of outreach without any rain. As I recalled these last two weeks, I was reminded how every Sunday that we have gone to Santa Marta, we have always had pleasant weather without any rain. Even when I was not praying for God to hold the rain back, He knew what was best for us and provided accordingly.
            Some may consider moving rocks a form of punishment. I actually enjoy it most days! After mowing the fields with the tractor, I try and remove as many boulders as possible so that the following cutting does not dig up so many buried treasures. Although the work is tiring, sweaty, and mundane, I have been able to learn valuable lessons. The saying, “ It’s just the tip of the iceberg” has not meant so much as in the last few days. Even though the temperature would never allow for a frozen mountain, the concept still applies. When I find a rock, I first try to pick it up. If it is stuck, I try to hit it with a large iron rod to loosen it. If that fails, I start prying with the bar. Occasionally the picking, hitting, and prying all fail. In these severe circumstances, drastic measures are called for. I get the shovel, pry bar, and water bottle then start working. Yesterday I had a monster just barely poking its head out of the ground. What looked like a five-minute job lasted for forty-five minutes. I was just about to give up on its removal when I decided to give one last effort. Much to my dismay, it budged ever so slightly. Oh bother! I knew that I could not give up then. Despite my lack of strength or energy, I pressed on in the work that lay ahead. With every ounce of effort that I had left, I finally managed to remove the beast that was giving me such grief. The only task that loomed was getting it into the one-wheeled chariot to take it to its destiny, the rock pile. I tipped the wheelbarrow on its side and heaved with all my might. Victory at last! An enormous feeling of success swept over me as I finally dumped it out. It reminded me that in my times of distress, Christ gives me the strength I need to accomplish the task He gives me.             
            This last Sabbath, I had the opportunity to read a chapter out of Ellen White’s compilation entitled Prayer. A thought hit me like a ton of bricks (or maybe rocks may be more apropos): What a privilege prayer is for humans. In the story of Esther, one can read how perilous it was to come before the king without being summoned. People risked life simply to be in the presence of another mortal. Simply by the king’s word could a person’s fate be determined. Can you imagine the terror that must have plagued Esther as she walked through the corridor of the palace on her way to face life or death? Every day, I come into the presence of the King. But unlike the kings of old, my King has given me an open invitation to come visit Him. I never have to travel for miles or days to come into His presence. He will never reject me or sentence me to death, regardless of what baggage I bring along with me. And the best part is that He is pleading for me to come into His presence every day. He delights when you choose to visit Him in the morning and talk with Him throughout the day. I beckon you to take advantage of this superior opportunity that has been granted to each one of us. I guarantee that if you trust Him with all of you life’s work, you will not be disappointed. Results may not be expected, so make sure you are holding on tight to His hand.

I once Belized that I like to do manual labor… now I’m positive (as a proton!).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Being Heard

            I wrote this blog about 2 months ago, at the beginning of my trip to Asia. Just remembered that I had not yet posted it. Hope you enjoy it even though it is a bit delayed...

            “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” –Isaiah 65:24

            I don’t particularly care to talk non-stop, but I do get a warm feeling inside when someone wants to listen when I do talk. There is something about the undivided attention of another that gives us a sense of satisfaction. Often times, we may feel dejected because we think that no one hears our voice or cares about us. But the great promise that God has given us in Isaiah should give us an overwhelming sensation of worth. The King of the entire universe wants to listen to me in all my unintelligent, selfish, and sinful times. Not only does He listen, but He also answers before I even start calling on Him. He definitely answered my petition today before I was even aware of the situation.
            The countdown was quickly nearing zero; it was happening and I could not truly believe it. I was going to be leaving for the United States to see my family, but it all seemed so surreal. All us missionaries packed into the truck and headed to the bus station. The anticipation was starting to grow, but lack of sleep was making me want to go to bed more than the bus station. After a hug from every “family member” in our group, I boarded the bus looking forward to the time when I would be reunited with my Belize family.
            Getting across the boarder from Belize to Mexico is a long process. Whenever I travel, I ask God to help me meet any divine appointments with a willingness to speak whatever He needs the other person to hear. I need His strength because I grew up knowing Stranger Danger: Don’t talk to strangers and definitely don’t take candy from them! I have no natural inclination to speak to strangers. The girl who was sitting behind me on the bus struck up a conversation with me while we waited in line at the boarder. She asked what I was doing in Orangewalk because she noticed that I was hugging all my “family” before I left. I started telling her about our project and other projects around the world. She seemed interested in what I had to say, so I kept talking. I was telling how different projects have need of different skills. I mentioned teachers, health care, and off handedly mentioned people who were involved in the arts. She seemed to take special interest in this one so I continued to talk more about the opportunities available in other parts of the world. Turns out she is an artist, among many other things, in Toronto. I do not know what impact I had on her, but I know that God was using me to say something to her. All I can do is pray that God will continue to put opportunities before her to learn more about Him.
            I woke up to the bus driver shining a flashlight in my face calling for all those going to Tulum, La Playa, and other places besides the airport. Our bus was broken down on the side of the road and we were going nowhere. After about an hour, we were on our way to the airport again. When we arrived, I knew I had missed my flight. Not only had I lost an hour on the roadside, but I had also forgot about the hour I lost when I crossed the boarder. Though I walked into the airport with little confidence in the situation, I decided that I would trust that God had a plan to get me home.
            The Delta ticket counter was very intimidating, but I had to face it. I explained the situation to them and asked about the possibilities available to me. The whole time I prayed that God’s will would be done, even if that meant me having to purchase a new ticket. They said I could get on another flight, but I was going to be charged $200 USD in addition to the difference in the cost of the tickets. I dreaded the thought of spending that much money, but it was the only option available. I handed them my debit card so they could take out the amount I owed. My card was denied, and although I had four currencies in my purse, I did not have enough of any to pay for the ticket in cash. The attendant pointed me to the nearest ATM where I waited for the machine to become available. Moments later, the same attendant came running over to me. My situation had been explained to the supervisor and had been allowed the change free of charge! An immense relief swept over me as I realized that although it seemed like everything was going wrong, God just wanted me to trust His leading.
I don’t know what is going to happen next, but I do know that I am in the airport, I have a ticket to the States, and I have the promises of God always with me.

Dear God,
            I’m learning to Belize in Your promises more and more everyday. Thanks for Your strength this morning and everyday.